Interview: Amy Reeder talks Batwoman
Today marks the start of Amy Reeder’s 6 issue arc as the artist on Batwoman. Reeder, who first came to the DC fold as the artist on Vertigo’s Madame Xanadu, was announced as the co-artist of Batwoman with J.H. Williams in April of 2010. While she drew Kate Kane in the Batwoman 0 issue from November of 2011, this is the first time we’ve seen her draw Kate in the cape beyond covers. I spoke to Amy earlier this week about working on Batwoman, her process, and what we can look forward to seeing in the book.
Amy, it’s been almost two years since you were announced as an artist for Batwoman can you believe your arc is finally here? It must have been so hard to see the stops and starts.
It was hard! And yes, very strange that it’s coming out now. It was such a big deal to me and the wait I think has built it up in my mind even more. So I’m a little nervous and hope it’s well-received.
How was the process of working with J.H.? given that he is an artist first, are his scripts more specific than say what you got from Matt Wagner on art when working on Madame Xanadu?
The only two writers I’ve worked with so far have been Matt and JH+Haden. Matt and JH are, of course, also artists, and they work very differently. Matt worked plot-first, so there wasn’t even a panel count, and the direction was very minimal compared with what most writers do. His philosophy was, if he wanted it a certain way, he’d draw it—which works for him, because he draws so fast. JH’s scripts, on the other han
d, have a lot in them, much more than I imagine most scripts would. His reasoning is that he has to know it works by playing it out completely—it’s just the way his mind works. But I’m a very different artist from JH, and have different strengths, so I try to take the meaning from his direction, internalize it, and come up with the best way to tell it. It’s not an easy thing to do! But in the process I always discover just how clever and thoughtful the plot is. I love how lush the characters are and the dialogue is very natural and real. And there’s a lot that happens, in cool settings…I’m just very into the story.
I’ve never asked JH and Haden, who does what with the scripts. But from what I’ve gathered, they work out a detailed plot together and JH writes the script. I could be wrong!
What is your process, how do you approach a page?
You know I love talking about process
! As I said above, first is interpreting the script and immersing myself in that world. I draw thumbnails, which for me are very detailed and work as underdrawings to my pencils. I can’t stand doing them…it’s so much brainwork in one sitting. But I always regret if I don’t plan well at that stage. I lightbox the thumbs at the pencil stage and finish off the drawing. Then I send it off to Rob Hunter, who inks it, and he sends the pages back to me for graytones. Graytones are done with copic markers and then I scan it all and send the files to Guy Major, who’s coloring the book!
JH Williams’ run has a lot of two page spreads. I saw a few for issue 6. How do you collaborate with him on the page design - does he say “two-page spread here or do you come back and say, “this might work well if we did it this way”?
JH loves his spreads! He’s pretty keen on making most Batwoman pages double-page spreads, and I think we do a pretty typical thing where my way of asking “does this work?” is just drawing thumbnails to show him what I’m thinking. Occasionally
he’ll have some layout design ideas; not too often, though that’s probably because he knows I prefer to handle it myself. In the case of the preview pages you saw, I actually moved some panels around to different pages so I could make one of the spreads into a splash, to add some impact. So in that case I definitely talked to JH about my idea and luckily he was cool with it! In general, though, I stick pretty close to the script.
Since you started working on Batwoman, DC has started releasing comics in digital at the same time. Have you adjusted your work for digital at all?
So far I haven’t made any changes to my art for digital, though now that you mention it I should look into how it turns out in that respect. I have thought a lot about digital and how resolution totally changes things, and how the comics format could be changed. But I have mostly thought of those things in terms of making a comic that’s exclusively meant for digital, rather than being simultaneously released to both formats.
Tell me about how you view Kate? How do you approach her as a character?
What I like about Kate is that she’s so subtle for a lead character…like she says very little and our job is to read behind the lines, which makes it impossible not to feel invested and empathetic towards her. She’s got a little of the edgy in her. She’s a nuanced balance between feminine and masculine, which is tough to pin down.
Who do like drawing more Batwoman or Kate?
That is really tough, which I wouldn’t normally say. I usually like drawing characters out of costume, talking. Hah! It sounds boring but I love it because my strength and obsession is characters and acting. That said, Batwoman is probably the most fun for me to draw right now. I get to render her in grayscale—and I LOVE shading—and I’ve gotten to do so many great action sequences of which I’m relieved to say I’m proud.
One of the things that people loved about your work in Batwoman 0 was the clothes that Kate wore - in fact I had someone do a blog post on it. How do handle details like clothes?
Oh, that’s good to hear!!! Hmm, I’d love to see that blog post. (Note: Here it is!)
Clothes are a huge deal to me. I like to design my own, though I gave that up for comics. The first thing I ever published was the graphic novel series Fool’s Gold
, that I wrote about an aspiring fashion designer. And Madame Xanadu
was a dream for me because it takes place in different time periods and I had always wanted to study the history of clothing. And, I dressed Xanadu herself in this eclectic mix of what she’d seen…it was tons of fun.
So yeah, I do think a lot about what Kate would wear…the hardest part is just finding the right balance because she is this strange mix of casual and stylish. She’s been a little dressier in my arc as per the story, and again, that’s a challenge because she has to look GREAT but really grounded, too. It gets more complicated when you add in Maggie and Chase, and an additional female character you’ll be introduced to. They all have differing levels of femininity both in dress and mannerism and it’s probably been my favorite part of drawing the book: drawing women of all sorts.
You’ve drawn three women in the DCU - Madame Xanadu, Supergirl and Batwoman - Which was the easiest and why?
This one’s a no-brainer for me…it’s Madame Xanadu. Because in a sense I view her as my character. I had been told by my editors that they wanted to re-invent her and I had to convince them to trust me to even look at old references. She’s also a lot of fun because she’s always changing.
Tell us what we can look forward to in Batwoman? What are you most excited about?
Oops! I already said it—I’m excited about all the women, and their interactions. I think you guys (and gals!) will really get into the characters; I’m having a ball with them. I’m also into the idea of this new villain Maro…I can’t say much about him except that I think he was a fantastic inception by Haden and JH. Let’s see…my arc is very much a “building the rogues gallery” arc, so expect a lot to villains, some old but most of them new. JH and Haden wrote this arc from multiple points of view, and the timeline changes in some super clever ways that will make you talk, every issue. You’ll want to read the arc multiple times.
What I’m hoping to offer by being on the book is to portray everything with a lot of exuberance. I hope it is exciting, and I hope you feel like you’re there.
Any other projects coming up at DC? What would you like to work on?
Right now I’m just focusing on Batwoman
, so I don’t have any other projects going on. If I had a top choice for a next project at DC, it would involve developing a new female character. I am also giving creator-owned work some thought.
Batwoman #6 is on sale today. Reeder will be signing at Midtown Comics Downtown in New York on the 9th.